Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 10:05 AM

Primer pheromones in honey bee

Yves Le Conte, leconte@avignon.inra.fr, UMR 406 INRA/UAPV Ecologie des Invertébrés, Laboratoire Biologie et Protection de l'abeille, Site Agroparc, Domaine Saint-Paul, Avignon, Cedex 9, France

Chemical communication is especially interesting in social insects as it is compartmentalized into two different pheromones, releaser or primer. Recent studies on honeybee pheromones suggest that chemical communication in social insects is richer than we thought. When many releaser pheromones were discovered in the animal kingdom, only a few primer pheromones have been identified, most of them in the honeybee Apis mellifera. To support this idea, I will present our findings on pheromonal compounds produced by the colony, particularly ethyl oleate. Chemicals, like ethyl oleate (EO), had been shown to be produced by the brood and to have releaser effects in the recognition of the larvae by adult bees. They have also primer effects elevating protein level in the hypopharyngeal glands of the workers, or inhibiting worker ovary development. They are released by the salivary glands of the larvae. Recent results on biosynthesis will be presented, showing that they are biosynthesized by different actors of the colony: larvae, queen and adult workers. The example of EO will be presented. It was found to be biosynthesized and released by foragers and to inhibit the behavioural development of young bees (Leoncini et al., 2004). This compound is also found in important amounts on the queen (Keeling et al., 2001), and transmitted via the queen retinue pheromone as a passenger pheromone. Then, the same pheromonal compound is produced by three different actors of the colony and trigger both releaser and primer effects. I will show that pheromone signals in honeybees can be enhanced by complexity, synergy, and the context in which they are deployed, mediated through both temporal and spatial distribution. New definitions will be proposed for those compounds in regards to their roles in the colony.

Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Apis mellifera

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